As our Advocacy How-To series continues, we want to spend one more week talking about how to contact congressional offices. This is the most important building block of building congressional relationships. Last week, we talked about emailing them; this week we will look at calling.
Speaking directly to someone in a congressional office might seem intimidating, so it is important to have a solid game plan before calling. Make sure you:
- If possible, know the name of the staff person responsible for the issue you are calling about (see last week’s Advocacy How-To blog post for more on this),
- Be able to state your specific “ask” in a few clear and convincing sentences (we can help you develop talking points), and
- Be prepared for questions.
Here are three scenarios you may come across when you call the office:
1. Speaking with the Staff Person
The best case scenario is when you are connected to the people who handle your issue (like housing). Tell them exactly what you want them to do. Be very clear. If they can’t answer right then and there, ask when you can follow up. Be concise. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t make something up! Just say you will find the answer and let them know in follow-up. It’s a perfect excuse to keep the conversation going.
2. Getting an Automated Message
If you call the main number and receive an automated message, leave a message.
Be as clear and brief as possible. Say you are leaving a message for the staff person in charge of your issue and mention what you want the office to do. Be sure to leave a call back number and email address for the office to get in touch with you.
Here is an example:
“My name is Jane Doe from Districtville and I’m leaving a message for the staff member responsible for housing. I’d like to urge Rep. Joe Schmoe to support $2.4 billion funding level for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants. I’d love to talk further with the appropriate staff person on how this program is making an impact in my community and why this funding level is so important for our district’s efforts to end homelessness. I can be reached at 202-555-1234 or firstname.lastname@example.org”
3. Speaking with the Front Desk
If the front desk is unable to transfer your call to the appropriate staff member, try to find out when would be a good time to call back. You may also want to leave a message like the one above, so the office has a record of your call and concerns.
In these situations or others, the Alliance can help! If you have any questions or concerns about contacting your Members’ offices, let us know! We are here to answer your questions and help you every step of the way! And make sure to check out our Advocacy Toolkit for more great information and resources.
Image courtesy of nikitab.